Tag Archives: Acts

July 10th: “sharing the Gospel with the community in word and deed”

This week, as on the last three weeks, the sermon will consider one of the four facets of the congregation’s vision statement. The notes below lift up exemplifying passages from the Bible and the Book of Confessions.

Exemplifying Scripture

Jeremiah 3:12-15

Matthew 13:1-9 & 18-23

Matthew 28:19-20 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Mark 16:15 – Go into all the world, and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.

John 20:21 – Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’

Acts 16:25-34

The Westminster Confession of Faith:

6.055 1. God in infinite and perfect love, having provided in the covenant of grace, through the mediation and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, a way of life and salvation, sufficient for and adapted to the whole lost race of man, doth freely offer this salvation to all men in the gospel.(1)

6.056 2. In the gospel God declares his love for the world and his desire that all men should be saved; reveals fully and clearly the only way of salvation; promises eternal life to all who truly repent and believe in Christ; invites and commands all to embrace the offered mercy; and by his Spirit accompanying the Word pleads with men to accept his gracious invitation.(2)

6.057 3. It is the duty and privilege of everyone who hears the gospel immediately to accept its merciful provisions; and they who continue in impenitence and unbelief incur aggravated guilt and perish by their own fault.(3)

6.058 4. Since there is no other way of salvation than that revealed in the gospel, and since in the divinely established and ordinary method of grace faith cometh by hearing the Word of God, Christ hath commissioned his Church to go into all the world and to make disciples of all nations. All believers are, therefore, under obligation to sustain the ordinances of the Christian religion where they are already established, and to contribute by their prayers, gifts, and personal efforts to the extension of the Kingdom of Christ throughout the whole earth.(4)

The Confession of 1967:

9.37 The church disperses to serve God wherever its members are, at work or play, in private or in the life of society. Their prayer and Bible study are part of the church’s worship and theological reflection. Their witness is the church’s evangelism. Their daily action in the world is the church in mission to the world. The quality of their relation with other persons is the measure of the church’s fidelity.

July 3rd: “Serving the world by reaching into the community being the hands and feet of Christ”

This week, the last two weeks, and next week, the sermon will consider one of the four facets of the congregation’s vision statement. The notes below lift up exemplifying passages from the Bible and the Book of Confessions.

Exemplifying Scripture

Micah 6:3-8

Matthew 25:31-46 – In as much as you have done to one of the least of these, you have done it unto me.

Acts 2:44-45 – All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-21 – But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labor among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

James 1:27 – Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

The Second Helvetic Confession

5.120 – GOOD WORKS PLEASE GOD. Now the works which we do by faith are pleasing to God and are approved by him. Because of faith in Christ, those who do good works which, moreover, are done from God’s grace through the Holy Spirit, are pleasing to God. For St. Peter said: “In every nation any one who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:35). And Paul said: “We have not ceased to pray for you . . . that you may walk worthily of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work” (Col. 1:9 f.).

May 29th: “Looking for God?”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Acts 17:16-31

C. Other texts for Year A for 6th Sunday in Easter

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

17 How would Paul be received today? Imagine a representative of a foreign religion arguing in our town square, debating professors and ministers.

22 How are we very religious? Or perhaps how are we overtly irreligious?

23 If Paul were to wander through our community, what would he see as drawing our attention away from the one true God and the resurrection of the dead.

24 Do our church buildings reflect the idea that God does not live in shrines? Considering how they lie empty for six days so they can be partly filled for a few hours a week.

25 What is our image of God? The master programmer or perhaps the master program/equation? What heresies/limitations are involved in such images? Computers make only logical deterministic decisions. God offers us participation in the divine transrational future.

28-29 Where to we image God being? Far away/above us in heaven? How would our religious behavior change if we imaged ourselves as living and moving in God, and all people being God’s offspring?

30-31 Our age denies ignorance and tends toward intellectual arrogance, with the philosophers of our age asserting human knowledge surpasses a need for God.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Paul and Silas were traveling in Greece arguing in synagogues that Jesus is the Messiah and that Jesus’ suffering and resurrection were necessary.
  • Paul’s delivery provoked Jewish leaders in Thessalonica, who formed a mob that searched for Paul. This mob brought several believers before the authorities alleging they were disturbing the peace and proclaiming a king other than the emperor. Paul left Thessalonica during the night and found Beroea more receptive to the message, until the Thessalonians found him.
  • This passage begins with Paul biding his time in Athens until his friends can join him.
  • The lectionary skips over Paul’s observations and initial arguments that led to his opportunity to argue at the Areopagus.
  • After leaving Athens, Paul traveled to Corinth where his arguments again provoked established Jews.

II. Literary Study.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

Paul is called a “babbler” (v. 18), literally “seed-picker” (Gk. spermologos), marking Paul as a wandering philosopher/preacher who, like a bird picking up seeds, collects philosophical terms here and there and uses them in his street diatribes with little or no grasp of their meaning (Mays, James Luther, Editor, Harper’s Bible Commentary).

III. Question the text.

B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?

Paul uses the statues to various gods distributed throughout Athens as a touch point to connect with the people.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • This passage provides an example of Paul’s preaching style which used items familiar to his audience and Old Testament topics to proclaim the necessity of Christ’s suffering and resurrection.
  • The various idols enrage Paul, perhaps provoking asserting retributive justice against those with false faith.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Paul attracted conflict to his own detriment. The conflict aroused quick interest, yielding short lived fascination with his message and motivation for Paul to travel from town to town, spreading the Message.

E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?

  • Paul’s sermon ends abruptly, perhaps due to the light response he received for asserting the resurrection.
  • I would have liked to have seen a summary of his subsequent conversations with those who joined him and became believers.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • An interesting account of an overly zealous preacher and part of his sermon. But how is it the word of God for us, in this time and this place?

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Robert W. Wall (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Acts of the Apostles,” 2002) connects the cultural and intellectual reputation of the city of Athens’ to the importance of this speech. He alludes that even in Paul’s day, the “idols” in Athens would have been deemed works of art rather than objects of worship. He also notes that the Epicureans were materialists who considered idolatry illogical.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

God is bigger than we suspect and merits our complete obedience.

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

Paul presents God the Creator, who will judge all people through Christ.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Consider the limitations we place on who God is and what God is possible of doing.